After ending PSL with a flourish, Kaizer Chiefs set sights on Champions League glory
Kaizer Chiefs hope their finish with a flourish to win their last two DStv Premiership games under pressure can boost their confidence in their first Caf Champions League semifinal against Wydad Casablanca this month‚ caretaker coach Arthur Zwane has said.
Zwane‚ along with his other former assistant to fired head coach Gavin Hunt‚ Dillon Sheppard‚ took charge of the team in impressive fashion.
They oversaw a 3-2 home win against then third-placed Lamontville Golden Arrows‚ then 1-0 win in Nelspruit against TS Galaxy in the battle for eighth place.
Chiefs’ run to the Champions League semis‚ having never reached a group stage‚ has been the shock of this season’s tournament.
They are not expected to progress past crack 2017 tournament winners and perennial semi-finalists Wydad‚ who beat Amakhosi 4-0 in Group C in neutral Burkina Faso in February.
Nine-man Chiefs won the return leg 1-0 at FNB Stadium but that was against a Wydad who brought a second-string outfit, having already qualified for the quarters‚ and whose master-schemer coach Faouzi Benzarti did not travel as he was taking his Covid-19 vaccine jab.
But Chiefs’ morale-boosting top eight finish‚ and the factor of who the club will appoint to replace Hunt‚ which should take place before the two legs of the semi at home on June 19 and away on June 26‚ has brought a certain unpredictability to the tie.
Zwane said given limited time‚ he and Sheppard only tweaked things tactically in the last two Premiership games.
“To be quite honest, when you are a coach at this level and you are left with two games in one week, you won’t have too many changes in the team‚” he said.
“The only thing you are left with is to make sure that you get organised‚ you lift the spirit in the camp‚ you make the players start believing in themselves even more.
“Because you knew that the results were not forthcoming‚ and the spirit was low because of that.
“Not because they didn’t want to play – these players tried so hard from the beginning of the season.
“And I can tell you there is no player‚ also including us as technical staff members‚ where we go onto a field and want to lose the game deliberately.
“We’ve got contracts here and we all want to ensure that a team of Kaizer Chiefs’ calibre wins every game.
“So unfortunately things were not going our way. But we had to control the situation and wait for the right moment.
“And maybe this wasn’t the right moment – the season was already over. But we are hoping that it can help boost our confidence in terms of preparing for the Champions League semifinal.”
Chiefs ended second to Wydad in Group C thanks to a final-match 0-0 draw earned against Horoya in Guinea.
They thrashed Simba 4-0 in the first leg of their quarterfinal at FNB‚ but then only edged into the semis with a 3-0 defeat in the second leg in Tanzania.
Wydad edged Alegria’s MC Alger 2-1 on aggregate in their quarterfinal.
Pitso Mosimane’s defending champions Al Ahly and Esperance de Tunis contest the other semifinal.